By Tan Choon Hok
Securing a drastic transformation from weakness to strength, China has climbed a rugged path over the past 70 years thanks to the nation’s spirit of constant self-improvement through hard work.
Starting with the Opium Wars in the mid-19th Century, the Chinese people endured more than a century of struggles to save the country until the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, finally making the people masters of their own destinies. Challenged by a damaged economy and a hostile international environment, the newborn republic staggered along a rough road.
In 1978, China opened its doors to the outside world. The launch of reform and opening-up policy aroused Chinese people’s desire to pursue better lives. With domestic industries developing by leaps and bounds, earth-shaking changes began taking place in all sectors of the Chinese society.
As an overseas Chinese person, I am delighted to see that China has become the world’s largest manufacturer and second largest economy after making achievements in industrialization in just over 40 years that took developed nations hundreds of years. China’s success has amazed people around the world and made people like me proud of our Chinese heritage.
China’s remarkable accomplishments in poverty reduction have drawn admiration from other countries. With a population of 1.4 billion, China has always given top priority to ensuring adequate food and clothing for its people. Since reform and opening-up policy was introduced four decades ago, more than 700 million Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty. The poverty rate has dropped from 97.5 percent in 1978 to around 3 percent at present. Still, over 30 million Chinese people are living in extreme poverty. I believe their living standards will also be improved soon thanks to China’s rich experience and determination to eradicate poverty. Fighting poverty is a global issue as well as a common task for humanity. China’s poverty alleviation campaign is of exemplary significance to the rest of the world.
Transportation infrastructure plays an important role in promoting economic growth. China’s first expressway was built in 1988. By the end of 2018, the country’s total length of expressways exceeded 140,000 kilometers, the longest in the world. In the past, due to outdated land transportation, most products were moved from inland to other places on waterways, which was costly and time consuming. Nowadays, a sophisticated highway network connecting towns and cities enables smooth flow of materials and commodities, which helped boost local economies and bridge the urban-rural gap.
Branded the calling card of the country, China’s high-speed rail is renowned for its speed and smooth ride. It is also dubbed by foreigners as one of the new “four great inventions” of China. China currently operates a high-speed rail network totaling over 30,000 kilometers, accounting for two thirds of the world’s total.
To stimulate economic growth, China has also invested hugely in other infrastructure projects including the South-North Water Transfer Project, the West-East Gas Pipeline Project, hydroelectric generation facilities and long bridges. China is a dynamic nation that radiates inspiring progress with each passing day.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by China has created new business opportunities for countries along the route. A catalyst for development of the new Silk Road on land, the first China-Europe freight train was launched in 2011 along the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe Railway linking the southwestern Chinese municipality of Chongqing with Duisburg, Germany, via Central Asian countries. Now, a total of 65 freight rail lines connect 48 Chinese cities to more than 40 cities in 14 European countries, transporting products of China to Central Asia, West Asia and Europe and returning loaded with goods from those countries. The trains carry fortunes indeed.
China-Europe freight train routes have proved successful, and the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (ILSTC) lifted implementation of the BRI even further. An important project under the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity launched in November 2015, the ILSTC aims to promote development of China’s western regions as well as countries along the route. It facilitates China-Indochina Peninsula connections and benefits two-way trade and regional economic development as well as local people in countries involved in the project.
The BRI has played a positive role in expanding win-win cooperation in both bilateral and multilateral arenas to broader scope and deeper levels. It helps other countries benefit from China’s economic development by enhancing economic, political, cultural and people-to-people exchanges among countries and regions along the route. China has taken concrete action to work with the rest of the world to build a community of shared future for mankind, demonstrating its commitment to peaceful development. In a nutshell, China is a trustworthy friend to be counted on for cooperation.